Posted 1st December 2022 | 1 Comment

ORR approves open access to South Wales

Open access services are set to start running on the Great Western Main Line for the first time in two years from now.

The Office of Rail and Road has approved an application by Grand Union Trains to operate five trains a day between London, Cardiff and Carmarthen from December 2024.

The ORR rejected objections from Network Rail that there would not be enough spare paths.

Trains will also call at Bristol Parkway, Severn Tunnel Junction, Newport, Gowerton and Llanelli. In addition, GUT has promised a new parkway station at Felindre, north of Swansea, as well as improvements at Severn Tunnel Junction.

Grand Union said it would create more than 125 jobs and would be procuring new rolling stock for the service, which will run on an electrified main line from London Paddington as far as Cardiff Central. The trains will be bi-modal and reduce journey times.

GUT is working with an independent European investment firm Serena Industrial Partners as well as the Spanish operator Renfe, and had said its trains would have ‘bigger seats, more legroom and increased luggage space as well as a buffet car on every service’.

The ORR said it had weighed up its decision ‘against the impact on government funds and effect on other users of the railway, both passengers and freight’. Open access passenger operators pay lower track access charges, but they are not protected from increases in the future compared with contracted operators, whose costs are met by the government.

The ORR’s director of strategy, policy and reform Stephanie Tobyn said: ‘This decision supports more choice for passengers, new direct journey opportunities, more price competition, and new comfortable trains. The added competition should also make a significant contribution to innovation in terms of the routes served, ticketing practices and service quality improvements, by both Grand Union and through the response of existing operators.’

Speaking at the end of September, Grand Union Trains managing director Ian Yeowart had said: ‘We have been pleased to work on promoting this important service which will, for the first time, deliver significant new infrastructure as part of the application process. We have been proud to work alongside colleagues at Serena and Renfe whose vision for improved services is close to our own and has enabled us to put forward this ambitious project to the ORR.’

The route’s existing contracted intercity operator Great Western Railway has yet to comment.

Reader Comments:

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  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    Maybe this will force GWR to replace their wooden Third Class seats with something more comfortable.